Note: Another one-shot! I had intended to use this idea for a poem, but I loved it so much I knew I just had to make it a one-shot instead. And this is the first one-shot I've written in first-person POV, so I'm excited. Remember to read and review! Thank you!
"I'll wait for you…my beautiful Popuri."
Those words resound in my head, even though they were spoken barely an hour ago. His casual smile, and the adventurous look in his eyes, still appear in my mind, fragments of an all too recent memory. This feeling swelling within me—I can't explain it. The kiss lingering on my lips, and the tears I refuse to let flow, all confuse me. He confuses me.
Only the rose in my hands seems real. Yes, the lovely pink rose the traveler handed me with his proposal. I squeeze it gently, feeling the thorns prick my pale skin. The scent of the flower coincides with that of the salty sea breeze, and I raise my eyes to view the oncoming of night. With the setting of the sun leaves the final day of a waning summer. And yet, the days seemed to go by so fast; it's a wonder they didn't end sooner.
The ship has left, but his words haven't yet faded into my memory. They remain vibrant, and instead of providing me with comfort, they torture me. Why, oh why, did he have to show me that blue feather? Does he enjoy making my life more complicated than it already is? Perhaps I am being too harsh…but he clearly doesn't understand me.
My mother is ill, and my brother works all he can to make ends meet. They need me. More importantly, they love me. My whole life is here. How can he expect me to leave my home behind so easily?
All I can ask of him is time. Plenty of time. But when I told him this, he simply said, "I'll wait for you…my beautiful Popuri." All summer, he called me that, his beautiful Popuri. Is that all I am? His beautiful Popuri? A treasure he can simply return to whenever he feels like it? I may be a young girl, and I may not know much about love, but I will say this: I am more than a gem to be hidden and praised. I will not be swept away by fancy words and romantic evenings. If what Kai says is true, that he loves me, then why doesn't he prove it?
Why can't he stay by my side?
I stare at the gift he has given me, a rose, and I find myself fingering its petals gingerly. For, what is a rose without its petals? A withering stem, devoid of its emerald color, and left with nothing but thorns. Its perfume is gone, and its beauty lost. And yet, every rose will fade and wither. Every rose will die.
Someday, I, too, will fade like this rose. Does he expect me to always be a youthful blossom, full of love's passion and vitality? Only a fool would expect as much. The incense of a flower tricks the mind into thinking it a treasure, worthy of being plucked from the ground and placed in a vase to gaze upon. But time reveals the fragileness of that beauty. Thus, petals mean nothing. The splendor he so exalts means nothing.
I know he never meant his words in such a way, but my heart is hasty, and has translated them in this manner. Forgive me, but I have become cautious. My mother married for love, as I wish to do, but too often she has been alone, hoping endlessly for her lover's return. My brother and I have been chained to that hope, that longing for my father to return home. But my father doesn't understand that his presence means so much more than a cure. He will never understand, until he sees my mother again.
Perhaps, someday, Kai will understand as well.
That is what I pray for at night, for a constant love that I can always depend upon. I am still, in some ways, a child: full of ideals and fantasies. But still, I rely on this dream every night when I go to bed, and every morning as I wake up. It makes my life worth living. I cannot simply run where he beckons me. My heart is too tightly wrapped around this dream.
But every time he leaves, it frightens me.
Perhaps it's true, that Kai is the one I shall swear to love forever and always. I am not denying that my soul longs for him these lonely months. Yet, when his ship departs, I will never know that he shall return to me. I will never know if he has found another girl, with a visage more alluring than my own. I will never know if he misses me as much as I miss him. I will never know.
And not knowing…is what terrifies me.
Why can't he stop being so restless? Why can't he decide to remain in one place, in a town where he knows he'll always be welcome? Why does he have to complicate my life so much?
My fingers wrap around the rose even tighter, and I turn away from the shore. Eyes downcast, I tear their sight away from the dock at all costs. I can't think about this anymore. My head hurts, and my heart is threatening to burst. I can't take this, I can't take this, I can't take this…
"Popuri? Are you alright?"
I turn my gaze upward to see the face of the young farmer, his face wrought with concern.
"Y-yes," I manage to say. "I suppose."
His expression relaxes a little, then he looks out to the horizon.
"Did Kai leave already?" he asks me, already knowing the answer.
I merely nod.
"That's too bad…I wanted to say good-bye," Jack sighed. "Did you see him off?"
Again, I nod.
"I'm guess he's the one who gave you that pretty rose, huh?" Jack grins. "You're lucky to have a guy like him."
"Am I?" I say with a small laugh. "Am I really lucky? To be separated from the man I love for these seasons, never knowing how he is, where he is? Tell me, Jack, am I really lucky?"
He is taken aback by the seriousness in my voice, and he replies softly, "Popuri…I'm sorry. I didn't mean it in a cruel way, honest."
"I know," I sigh. "I know. It's just…hard."
I sit down on the bench beside Kai's shop and lay the rose in my lap. To my surprise, Jack joins me.
"I'm sure it's tough," he agrees, turning his gaze towards me. "I bet it's lonely, huh?"
"You have no idea," I whisper. "Sometimes, I'm not even sure I love him. It's hard to keep my feelings alive for a whole year to only have them dashed every time he leaves."
"So why don't you leave with him?" Jack suggests.
"It's not that simple!" I shout, standing up. "You think it's easy to leave your whole family behind when they need you most?"
"Popuri, relax!" he insists, startled. "It was just an idea. Really, I'm not trying to make you mad."
I blush and sit down awkwardly.
"I-I'm sorry. I tend to over-think things, and get too emotional. I guess...I guess I'm a pretty immature child."
"Actually, Popuri, I think you're more mature than people realize," Jack disagrees, crossing his arms. "Being sensitive can be really useful sometimes, you know."
"You think…I'm mature?"
"Well, sure," Jack shrugged. "I mean, if you just left with Kai without any doubt or second-thoughts, then I'd think you were immature. But you actually put things in perspective."
"Most people treat me like a baby," I admit. "It's because I'm so young, I think."
"Eighteen isn't that young, Popuri. I left home at that age," the farmer adds.
"Really? I would think that would be hard…to leave home all by yourself."
"It was," Jack sighs. "But, it was good for me. It taught me perseverance, and the importance of hard work. And somehow along the way, I ended up here."
"Is it lonely?" I hear myself whisper.
"Sometimes," Jack admits. "Hey, I have an idea."
"What?" I exclaim, surprised by the sudden change of topic.
"Since you're lonely waiting for Kai, and since I'm lonely, too, why don't we go to festivals together?" he suggests.
"B-but I couldn't! What would Kai think?" I protest.
"I think that if Kai loves you, he'll want you to have fun," Jack assures me. "And it won't be like we're dating or anything, we'll just go as friends. What do you think?"
"Um…I…" I pause for a moment and look towards the dock again. Agonizing over Kai's absence and the meaning of his words would be a waste of a year. Somewhere in all that Jack had said was a sliver of truth.
"Okay," I decide, blushing slightly. "Sure, Jack, I'll go to the festivals with you this year."
He grins, placing his hands behind his head.
"Then it's decided. See you then, Popuri. I've got to get home—my animals need to get inside the barn."
"Oh, bye then," I murmur as he stands up to go. Once the sound of his receding footsteps ends all together, I stand up as well and approach the shore. The rose trembles in my grip and I stare out at the night sky, wondering if Kai, too, is gazing at the same stars and moon. If he is thinking of me. If he cares.
Then I, his beautiful Popuri, take the rose and pluck the petals one by one, dropping them into the ocean, where the waves carry them away in the sunset. The stem and its lowly thorns are all that remain, mourning their lost beauty.
Do not judge me by my petals. Learn to embrace my thorns.